2nd Oct 2023

Berlusconi in bid to boost Italian in EU

  • Mr Berlusconi has called for respect of “the dignity” of all EU languages (Photo: EUobserver)

Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has urged his ministers to boycott EU meetings where no documentation is provided in Italian in a bid to promote the language of Dante.

They should walk out of those meetings where they are forced to speak a language other than their own, Mr Berlusconi wrote in a letter to his colleagues, the Guardian reports.

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It is essential that the EU also guarantees "the dignity" of those languages which are less spoken in the Union, the prime minister wrote.

He said Italian officials should "counteract the practice, begun by the European commission… [of] introducing the ambiguous notion of 'working' or 'procedural' languages, with the effect of creating a trilingual hierarchy" with English, French and German as the main beneficiaries.

The 27 member state bloc has 23 official languages, while English, French and German are the three working languages used for day-to-day business.

Mr Berlusconi said he wants "constant monitoring" of the languages used at EU meetings and insisted Italian ministers should "avoid participating in discussions or votes" during informal talks of EU ministers "unless working documents in our language are made available."

In addition, he urged his colleagues to take legal steps if they spot language irregularities.

Former EU commissioner for Italy Franco Frattini has been assigned the task of leading the "battle for the defence of Italian," according to daily Corriere della Sera.

Meanwhile, the current Italian representative in the European commission, Antonio Tajani – in charge of transport - has already made Italian the working language in his cabinet in Brussels.

He has also chosen to substitute his German service car with an Italian one, writes the paper.

Italy, which, according to its prime minister's letter, has coordinated this language strategy with Spain, is not the first state to take issue with the use of its national language, however.

Paris and lately Berlin have also been frequent complainants as English continues to increasingly dominate in Brussels.

A few days before the start of the French EU presidency last month, the country's EU ambassador told a Brussels audience: "The French presidency, ladies and gentlemen, will be carried out in French."

France then ruffled a few feathers of non-French speaking journalists by insisting that only proficient French-speakers should attend get-to-know-the-French-presidency discussions in Paris at the beginning of July.

When Germany chaired the EU presidency in 2007, it too insisted on using German as much as possible. Some of the country's MPs have also been complaining that not enough EU documents are available in German even though it is a working language of the bloc.


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